Seal Beach City Council considers finance rules

The Seal Beach City Council discussed local campaign finance regulation at the Monday, Nov. 9 meeting.

The subject came to the council at the request of District 1 Councilman Charles Antos. The council directed staff to bring an ordinance back to a future council meeting.

Campaign financing could become an issue in 2010, when three council terms expire and the public will vote for the representatives to districts 1, 3 and 5.

Antos proposed setting a $250 limit for contributions by individuals and a $250 contribution limit for committees.

District 5 Councilman Michael Levitt suggested that Seal Beach have a rule prohibiting contributions a week prior to an election.

City Attorney Quinn Barrow said the city has no legal power to prohibit contributions. The city could require early reporting of contributions made late in the election.

Antos told Levitt that California law requires the disclosure of a donor’s identity for any contribution of $99 or more.

District 4 Councilman Gary Miller asked what Antos meant by a committee.

Antos said when you run for office, you form a committee. Another group of people can also form a committee to support your campaign. The difference is that one committee is controlled by the candidate and the other is not.

“My largest donation was $200 from one person,” Miller said. Later, Miller suggested a $1,000 limit. He said $250 was too much of a limitation.

Antos said under state law, someone could contribute as much as $5,000. Antos said he was concerned about the influence of that kind of money on local politics because of the events of the recent past.

Antos moved to have staff bring the issue back to the council at a future meeting. The motion was approved 5-0.

Barrow said staff would look into the timing issue that Levitt raised.

In other business, the council:

•    Approved, after several weeks of discussion, new rules and procedures for the conduct of council meetings. The vote was 4-1, with Miller casting the no vote.

•    Approved contracts with three law firms to conduct personnel investigations when the city needs to do so. Fiscal impact: $175-$350 an hour whenever one of the firms is required to conduct an investigation.  The contracts were approved as part of the consent calendar.

•    Received and filed a report on testing ocean water quality. The county recently announced it would not test ocean water quality from November 2009 to March 2010. According to the staff report by Joe Bailey, chief of the Marine Safety Department, if a lifeguard conducted tests during a 20-week period, it would cost the city $10,725 to continue testing the quality of Seal Beach’s ocean water. The council took no action on this report. The council did not discuss the report. It was received and filed as part of the consent calendar.

•    The council purchased mobile digital computers and in-car video cameras for police vehicles.

•    Amended the budget  for the Eisenhower Park Restrooms Project by $86,124.  According to the staff report, the money will be reimbursed by the state of California.